Beginning to Study St. Thomas Aquinas

One of my primary projects in the Aquinas blog of this website is to discipline myself to systematically read through every single article, in order, of St. Thomas Aquinas’s masterpiece, the Summa Theologiae.

(Note: you will often see this work referred to also as the Summa Theologica, which is a slightly different form of the title. Theologiae is a noun, in the genitive case, which makes this form of this work’s title to be Latin for “Summary of Theology.” Theologica, on the other hand, is an adjective, which makes that form of the title mean “Theological Summary” — not a heck of a lot of difference.)

aquinasstainedglassEven secular scholars acknowledge Aquinas’s theological masterpiece to be one of the “Great Books” of Western civilization, worthy of a place alongside the works of such giants as Homer, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Plato, Aristotle, Chaucer, Dante, Shakespeare, and Milton. (The Encyclopedia Britannica edition of the Great Books devotes two whole volumes of its 54 volumes to the bulk of Thomas’s Summa.)

Any interested readers of this blog who elect to join me in my plodding pilgrimage through Thomas’s tome will be richly rewarded, I can assure you. (I say “plodding” because the work in question is vast in bulk, comprising 521 questions (119 questions in Part I, 303 questions in Part II — 114 in the First Part of Part II and 189 in the Second Part of Part Two — and 99 in Part Three), with each question further divided into   We will not only read the words of St. Thomas himself, we will also consult the classic commentaries on the Summa, such as . By the time we reach the end, we will have had a master course in Catholic theology, and will have acquired a wisdom in the truths of God all too rare in this theologically illiterate age. Thomas will have drawn for us a highly detailed and amazingly precise roadmap to guide us safely past the snares and through the swamps of our times.

But before diving into the Summa, it seems smart to find gain a bird’s-eye view of the man and his work. Is there a book that will do this for us?

In fact there are several.

First of all, there is F.C. Copleston’s 1955 work Aquinas, available as a Penguin/Pelican paperback. You can find used copy

One of the most respected experts on St. Thomas Aquinas is the European scholar Dr. Josef Pieper. Among his many influential works is the classic Guide to Thomas Aquinas, published originally in german and translated into English in 1962. (Interestingly, the Imprimatur for the English translation was granted here in Scranton, Pennsylvania, where I live, by the then-bishop of Scranton, Jerome D. Hannan.)

To be continued